“Rain-gers Cruz to Detroit with 2-0 Lead!”
I received the news of Nellie’s 11th inning drive via David Byrnes’ iPhone during Valerie’s choir performance at Amarillo High School. The Rangers won it right in the middle of Jubilate Deo. It means sing with joy to the Lord. And we did.
Yesterday’s post about our congregational prayer for Judy has pushed me even farther in reflecting on the importance of public prayer. So many times our hurried efforts at the pulpit or, worse, our rambling ruminations and repetition betray a careless attitude toward this sacred activity among the saints in the presence of God on his holy ground. Congregational prayer is never to be entered into lightly. It is serious. It’s heavy. It requires forethought and preparation. And it demands relationship. You really can’t pray appropriately for your brother unless you really know your brother.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says as much in Life Together. And I agree.
“The prayer in the common devotion should be the prayer of the fellowship and not that of the individual who is praying. It is his responsibility to pray for the fellowship. So he will have to share the daily life of the fellowship; he must know the cares, the needs, the joys and thanksgivings, the petitions and hopes of the others. Their work and everything they bring with them must not be unknown to him. He prays as a brother among brothers. It will require practice and watchfulness, if he is not to confuse his own heart with the heart of the fellowship, if he is really to be guided solely by his responsibility to pray for the fellowship.”
If you’re asking people to lead prayers in your assemblies, please don’t wait until the day before to make that call. Give them several days, maybe a full week or more, to pray and prepare and practice for this awesome task. And if you’re leading these public prayers on behalf of an entire group of Christian brothers and sisters, by all means please take great care in the things you say and the ways you say them. Pray about it first, just between you and God; you’re going to need his help. Prepare the congregational prayer in advance; write down the words. Practice it; know what you’re going to say when you dare to address the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Above all, remember that you are praying on behalf of the group. And that sanctifies you. It transforms you. Because when you intercede for others before the throne of God and focus more on their needs than your own, you are being like our Christ who always lives to intercede for us.